Three years ago, in the now-defunct Five Points Pub, two South Carolina bands were headed in different directions. Columbia’s Calculator was petering out; the gig would be the Tyler Morris-led quartet’s last show. Surfside’s Octopus Jones was seemingly on the rise; a few months later, the then-quintet would release its bouncy debut, Treat Yourself, which drew equally from ’70s disco, ’80s New Wave and ’90s indie.
But Octopus Jones would eventually sputter. The band pared down to the trio of guitarist and singer Danny Martin, bassist Clay Carlisle and drummer Darrin Cripe. After Martin graduated from Coastal Carolina, he moved back to his hometown of Columbia. He reconnected with Morris, spending the summer going to shows and driving to Charleston to indulge in some late-night jams with Ryan Zimmerman, a producer and engineer who plays with regionally popular pop act Brave Baby.
But South Carolina had turned stagnant, too comfortable for Octopus Jones and for Morris. So they uprooted to North Carolina, settling in Raleigh in September 2012. Morris, who had started playing with Octopus Jones by this point, joined the rest of the band in February 2013.
“It was a needed change,” Morris says. “We were stuck. Sometimes, I think people just stay stuck [in South Carolina] if they play so much. I feel like it was a step toward being a band instead of people who just play music.”
Phantasmagoria, the band’s new long-player, is redolent of a band that’s radically reinvented itself. Upon moving to Raleigh, three-fourths of the band lived in the same house, on eight acres of land on the outskirts of the Triangle. (The next-door neighbor, Morris claims, was NBA star John Wall.) The band jammed there, often until 3 a.m., and wrote and recorded, with Zimmerman, much of Phantasmagoria there, too. The album’s filled with a manic and weird energy that’s endemic of those late-night sessions, with Martin and Morris contributing an equal number of songs that shift and morph from rollicking spankwave to moody post-punk and sparse post-rock, like a tired mind that can’t focus on one thing for too long.
“It’s definitely a contrasting thing,” Morris says. “I feel like the album’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde-type thing, where there are two people fighting, in a way.”
The split songwriting duties broaden the band’s oeuvre. Martin’s twitchy ditties, such as surf-boogie opener “Afternight,” are propelled by a relentless funk verve. Morris’ crooners, like the cloudy “Sadata” and the moonlit “Downtown,” brood and bloom, filled with oblique imagery and a lithe, angular tension. Martin’s songs keep four on the floor, built on kinetic and elastic rhythms. Morris punctuates his meters in odd places and works his vocal lines against the beat, giving his standard-time songs a shadowy propulsion — something best observed during “Strange Satisfaction.” Martin yips and yelps, predicating his melodies on elastic vocal leaps. Morris smolders, mumbles and moans, wielding his deep voice like rumbling brass.
As much as Martin and Morris contrast, they complement each other rather well. Morris tempers Martin’s nerviness, and that added sense of calm expands the dynamics of jittery songs like “Don’t Touch My Tony.” In turn, Morris’ numbers get a boost from this siphoned energy: See “World of Steers,” given pep in its uptempo sections by Carlisle’s melodic bass line and Cripe’s steady drumming.
It’s clear the move north was a good one: Octopus Jones’ songs have become sharper and more fluid. The relocation has worked out strategically, too. The Triangle is closer to Washington, D.C., where the band’s already made inroads, and it positions them close to target cities like Philadelphia and New York.
“A lot of this is us learning who we are as a band, especially when having to mix my style up a little bit,” Morris says. “I think this is just us showing people what we are. This is just us.”
Octopus Jones plays New Brookland Tavern on Saturday, Jan. 25. New Brookland Tavern is at 121 State St. in West Columbia. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; admission is $5, $8 under 21. With Co., Stagbriar, Elonzo, Mechanical River. Call 791-4413 or visit newbrooklandtavern.com for more information.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: email@example.com.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Real Estate Spotlight
The Lake Carolina new home community has it all! 1 YMCA, 3 pools, 10 parks, 20+ community events each year, and much more! Learn more. www.lakecarolina.com
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com